Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sorry, Darling, No Citizenship for You

People giving their kids stupid names pisses me off more than the average person (this means YOU if you named your daughter Madison or McKayla or spelled a common name wrong just to look clever), but even with the erosion of civil liberties, I'm glad we still believe in basic personal freedom in the U.S.A., unlike Europe, where they deny you citizenship if they don't like your name.

10 Comments:

At Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10:12:00 AM PST, Anonymous Erich said...

Isn't Japan really anal about names too? Like, ethnic Koreans there, among their other problems, can't have Korean names, but only proper Japanese ones.

 
At Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10:29:00 AM PST, Anonymous doafy said...

Dude, I'm getting a kid this semester named Khrystyne. Seriously.

 
At Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 3:50:00 PM PST, Blogger Victor said...

Would it surprise you if I told you I don't agree?

This is one way, among others, to encourage the assimilation of immigrants. It also limits the expressive self (a good in itself in this day and age, I'd say) in a field where it can only do damage later in life. Even the Church has name requirements that you cannot simply flout.

 
At Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 3:59:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Doaf- Her mother was probably inspired by Khrystyne Haje on "Head of the Class."

Erich - Not sure about Japan. I know that since sometime around the 80s or so, there have been a lot of girls given names that don't end in "-ko." I don't know if that's just the fashion, or if a law changed or something.

I had a classmate in grad school who was a Chinese woman from Japan. Her name was Kankun, which isn't a proper Japanese name, but is instead the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters that make up her Chinese name (she went by Nancy here). I guess from a Chinese perspective, that's not much different from names being pronounced differently (but written the same) in Mandarin, Cantonese, etc. It's a translation based on the characters used to write the name, not just a Japanization of the Chinese pronunciation.

Not sure what they do about Korean names in Japan; probably something similar. Korean names are based on pairs of Chinese characters, right?

 
At Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 7:15:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Remember when Republicans used to claim they didn't want the government intruding on your personal life?

 
At Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10:32:00 PM PST, Blogger Victor said...

Adam, Adam, Adam ...

Don't turn into a libertarian-anarchist before my eyes. If "intruding on your personal life" is a blanket argument without reference to the basis for the intrusion (and that's the argument as far as you've presented it here), then all government is tyranny and all authority is immoral.

And perhaps more directly to your specific point ... the governments of Spain and Denmark are hardly capital-R from-an-American taking-a-slam-at-Victor "Republican." Really bud, I expect better of you than that. Leave the cheap nihilist skepticism to some of our mutual acquaintances.

 
At Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 12:35:00 AM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Oh, I know, Vic. I just couldn't resist.

 
At Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 3:59:00 PM PST, Anonymous doafy said...

Ok, something else. As a teacher, we tend to notice a correlation between kids whose name's are spelled wrong and their ability in English class. I think the general flouting of conventions of spelling and language that their parents have spills down to them. And I don't mean unique names. I mean names that are spelled *wrong*. Like, "Alyssa" (pronounced Alicia), "Gaby" (pronounced Gabby), and one I read about in Dear Abby, which prompted some fabulous return letters, "Jazzyella" (pronounced Gisella).

 
At Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 11:58:00 PM PST, Blogger Victor said...

Well, that's because spelling is rote-memorization that offers no room for creativity and self-expression, and, as the Freires of the world have proven, results in enervation, disempowerment and the perpetuation of the evil patriarchy.

 
At Monday, January 22, 2007 at 2:58:00 AM PST, Anonymous Matthew B. said...

Okay, here's more than you wanted to know about names in Japan:

Some given names are in hiragana or katakana (the two syllabic alphabets), but most of them consist of two or three of the kanji characters imported from Chinese. Kanji for names have to be in relatively common use, and can't have a negative meaning such as "death" or "urine" or whatnot. The government has set a list of 2000-odd acceptable kanji.

If the name as a whole has a negative meaning, the government can again forbid it. There's a famous case where parents were denied permission to name their child "Akuma" ("demon"). But weird names in general seem to be okay; I've heard of some other parents who put a couple of kanji together to give their son the very un-Japanese name "Puran," because it sounded like the English word "plan."

Japanese citizenship used to require adoption into a Japanese family, but that's not the case nowadays. Foreign-born citizens may keep their original names -- in kanji, if they're Chinese or Korean, or converted into Japanese characters (usually katakana) if they're Western. Some Chinese- or Korean-Japanese with uncommon kanji in their names have to change them to other characters with the same pronunciation, because the original characters aren't on the Japanese list of acceptable kanji for names.

I think foreign-born citizens have to drop any middle names, but I'm not sure about that.

Female names ending in "-ko" ("child") or "-mi" ("beauty") were extremely popular for most of the last century, but are now out of style. The change is partly because of feminism, partly just fashion.

So enough about Japan. Have you ever seen N.Y. Times stories with bylines from Jennifer 8. Lee?

 

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